Sunday, December 31, 2017

Song of the Year, 1900-2017

This page was created to get snapshots of each year and its big hit songs. However, the task became cumbersome and was better served as part of individual decade pages. As such, you can find the “Song of the Year” winners by clicking on any of the badges below:


These are the year-end awards noted on the pages above:

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Phil Spector: Top 50 Songs

image from thoughtco.com

Phil Spector was born December 26, 1939 in the Bronx, New York. He is best known as a record producer who developed what has been called “the Wall of Sound,” an approach to producing a dense orchestral asthetic within studio recordings. His personal life was troubled by a history with gun violence and in 2003 he was convicted of second degree murder. In honor of his birthday, here are his 50 biggest hits as a writer and/or producer:


The Top 50 Phil Spector Songs

The Ronettes “Be My Baby”

1. John Lennon “Imagine” 1971)
2. The Beatles “Let It Be” (1970)
3. The Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (1964)
4. The Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” (1965)
5. George Harrison “My Sweet Lord” (1970)
6. The Ronettes “Be My Baby” (1963)
7. Ike & Tina Turner “River Deep, Mountain High” (1966)
8. The Crystals “Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)” (1963)
9. John Lennon “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” (1970)
10. The Dixie Cups “Chapel of Love” (1964)

11. The Crystals “He’s a Rebel” (1962)
12. The Beatles “The Long and Winding Road” (1970)
13. Ben E. King “Spanish Harlem” (1960)
14. The Teddy Bears “To Know Him Is to Love Him” (1958)
15. John Lennon “Jealous Guy” (1971)
16. John Lennon “Stand by Me” (1975)
17. The Crystals “Then He Kissed Me” (1963)
18. John Lennon “Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)” (1971)
19. George Harrison “Give Me Love, Give Me Peace on Earth” (1973)
20. George Harrison “What Is Life” (1971)

21. John Lennon “Mother” (1970)
22. John Lennon “Working Class Hero” (1970)
23. Paris Sisters “I Love How You Love Me” (1961)
24. John Lennon “God” (1970)
25. Ramones “Rock and Roll High School” (1979)
26. The Beatles “Across the Universe” (1970)
27. The Ronettes “Baby I Love You” (1963)
28. John Lennon “Power to the People” (1971)
29. The Ronettes “Walking in the Rain” (1964)
30. Curtis Lee & the Halos “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” (1961)

31. The Crystals “There’s No Other Like My Baby” (1961)
32. The Righteous Brothers “Just Once in My Life” (1965)
33. The Crystals “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” (1962)
34. Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” (1962)
35. Sonny Charles & the Checkmates Ltd. “Black Pearl” (1969)
36. The Ronettes “Do I Love You?” (1964)
37. The Righteous Brothers “Ebb Tide” (1965)
38. Connie Francis “Second Hand Love” (1962)
39. Ray Peterson “Corrine, Corrina” (1960)
40. The Crystals “Uptown” (1962)

41. George Harrison “Bangla-Desh” (1971)
42. The Ronettes “Born to Be Together” (1965)
43. Darlene Love “Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry” (1963)
44. Darlene Love “A Fine, Fine Boy” (1963)
45. John Lennon “Woman Is the Nigger of the World” (1972)
46. Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans “Why Do Lovers Break Each Others’ Hearts” (1963)
47. Gene Pitney “Every Breath I Take” (1961)
48. Ramones “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio” (1980)
49. George Harrison “Isn’t It a Pity” (1970)
50. The Ronettes “The Best Part of Breakin’ Up” (1964)


Saturday, December 23, 2017

December 23, 1806: Beethoven's Violin Concerto premiered

Last updated August 27, 2018.

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61

Ludwig van Beethoven (composer)


Composed: 1806


First Performed: December 23, 1806


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: “one of the most important works of the violin concerto repertoire” – Wikipedia


Genre: classical > violin concerto


Parts/Movements:

  1. Allegro ma non troppo
  2. Larghetto
  3. Rondo, Allegro

Average Duration: 43:30

Review:

Beethoven composed his Violin Concerto for colleague Franz Clement who debuted the work at a benefit concert at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna on December 23, 1806. Beethoven reportedly finished the solo part so late Clement had to sight-read part of the performance. The premiere was not well received, sending the sending the work into decades of obscurity. In 1844, 12-year-old violinist Joseph Joachim revived the piece alongside the London Philharmonic Society conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. It has since become one of the best-known violin concertos. WK

The concerto was written at the height of Beethoven’s creative, so-called “second” period, representing one of his crowning achievements in his exploration of the concerto. WK “At over 25 minutes in length, the first movement is notable as one of the most extended in any of Beethoven’s works, including the symphonies.” MR “The second movement takes a place among the most serene music Beethoven ever produced.” MR

Possibly as a result of the concerto’s initially poor reception, Beethoven revised it for piano and orchestra. He crafted a “lengthy, somewhat bombastic first movement cadenza which features the orchestra’s timpanist along with the solo pianist. This and the cadenzas for the other movements were later arranged for the violin (and timpani).” WK


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Friday, December 22, 2017

December 22, 1808: Beethoven premiered his 6th symphony

Last updated August 28, 2018.

Symphony No. 6 in F major (Pastorale), Op. 68

Ludwig van Beethoven (composer)


Composed: 1806-1808


First Performed: December 22, 1808


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: --


Genre: classical > Romantic symphony


Parts/Movements:

  1. Allegro ma non troppo (Awakening of happy feelings on arriving in the country)
  2. Andante molto moto (Scene by the Brook)
  3. Allegro (Peasant’s merrymaking)
  4. Allegro (The storm)
  5. Allegretto (Shepherds’ song. Joyous thanksgiving after the storm)

Average Duration: 41:33

Review:

“For roughly 175 years, the music appreciation racket has told us that Beethoven composed symphonies in contrasting odd-even pairs after 1803, none more startling than the heaven-storming Fifth and bucolic Sixth. Originally, however, he assigned the designation of ‘No. 5’ to the Pastoral for their shared debut on surely the most historic night in Western music, December 22, 1808. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the unheated Theater an der Wien, he premiered both symphonies, the Fourth Piano Concerto, ‘Choral’ Fantasy, ‘Ah! perfido!’ (a concert aria from 1796), and introduced a Viennese audience to excerpts from the C major Mass, an Esterházy commission of 1807 that Prince Nicolaus II disliked when he heard it.” RD

“Beethoven began making specific notes for a ‘Sinfonia pastorale’ in 1806, but didn’t complete the work until 1808, in the village of Heiligenstadt northwest of Vienna. If this had been an unlikely hatchery in 1807 for the fist-brandishing Fifth Symphony, it perfectly suited – as he noted in his sketchbook – ‘recollections of country life...more the expression of feeling than of painting’ in his ensuing woodwind-drenched symphony (although violins get first crack at nine of its 12 significant themes).” RD

Cheerful impressions wakened by arrival in the country’ (Allegro ma non troppo, in F major, 2/4) is the first movement. It is in sonata form, pretty much by the book, with violins introducing all themes. The second-movement Scene by the brook (Andante molto moto, in B flat major and 12/8 time) is a Sonata structure again, but more relaxed, with a limpid main theme for violins and a bassoon sub-theme. In the coda, the flute impersonates a nightingale, the oboe a quail, and the clarinet a cuckoo.” RD

“The third movement, Merry gathering of country folk (Allegro, 3/4 time, F major), is an expanded song-and-trio, with a 2/4 section in ‘tempo d’Allegro’ that creates the effect of an ABCABCA structure, leading without pause to the fourth movement, Thunderstorm; tempest (Allegro; F minor, 4/4). From the first raindrop to last, this is purely depictive music.” RD

“It is followed by a 10-bar chorale that segues the final Shepherd’s song; glad and grateful tidings after the storm (Allegretto; F major, 6/8), a sonata-rondo, whose C-section some have called a development section. The fun includes a sly parody of amateur musicians before the long, progressively tranquil coda that ends with a pianistic gesture: two fortissimo chords.” RD


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December 22, 1808: Beethoven premiered his 5th symphony

Last updated August 27, 2018.

Symphony No. 5 in C minor (“Fate”), Op. 67

Ludwig van Beethoven (composer)


Composed: 1804-1808


First Performed: December 22, 1808


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: --


Genre: classical > Romantic symphony


Parts/Movements:

  1. Allegro con brio
  2. Andante con moto
  3. Allegro
  4. Allegro

Average Duration: 32:50

Review:

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is “one of the most popular and best-known compositions in all of classical music, and one of the most often played symphonies.” AZ The poet and composer E.T.A. Hoffman called it “one of the most important works of the time.” AZ The symphony consists of four movements: “an opening sonata, an andante, and a fast scherzo which leads attacca to the finale.” AZ Beethoven toiled away for more than four years to compose it, finally introducing it on December 22, 1808 in Vienna’s Theater an der Wien.

Also included in the program were Symphony No. 6, Piano Concerto No. 4, and parts of his Mass in C. MJ While it might be considered “one of the most extraordinary concerts in history,” MJ it also should be noted that “the hall was unheated, and the musicians woefully under-prepared. As Schindler noted, ‘The reception accorded to these works was not as desired, and probably no better than the author himself had expected. The public was not endowed with the necessary degree of comprehension for such extraordinary music, and the performance left a great deal to be desired.’” MJ

However, “the work achieved its prodigious reputation soon afterwards.” AZ Hoffman wrote, “How this magnificent composition carries the listener on and on in a continually ascending climax into the ghostly world of infinity!...the human breast, squeezed by monstrous presentiments and destructive powers, seems to gasp for breath; soon a kindly figure approaches full of radiance, and illuminates the depths of terrifying night.” MJ

In Howard’s End, E.M. Forster writes about the symphony, saying it satisfies “all sort and conditions.” MJ The fact that he focuses heavily on the work “shows the extent to which it had become absorbed into the Romantic consciousness.” MJ

“Hermann Kretzschmar wrote of the ‘stirring dogged and desperate struggle’ of the first movement, one of the most concentrated of all Beethoven’s symphonic sonata movements. It is derived almost exclusively from the rhythmic cell of the opening, which is even felt in the accompaniment of the second subject group. There follows a variation movement in which cellos introduce the theme, increasingly elaborated and with shorter note values at every reappearance. A second, hymn-like motif is heard as its counterfoil.” MJ

“The tripartite scherzo follows; the main idea is based on an ominous arpeggio figure, but we hear also the omnipresent ‘Fate’ rhythm, exactly as it is experienced in the first movement. The central section, which replaces the customary trio, is a pounding fugato beginning in the cellos and basses, and then running through the rest of the orchestra. Of particular structural interest is the inter-linking bridge passage which connects the last two movements. Over the drumbeat referred to by Forster’s Tibby, the music climbs inexorably toward the tremendous assertion of C major triumph at the start of the finale. The epic grandeur of the music, now with martial trombones and piccolo added (the Fifth also calls for contrabassoon), has irresistible drive and sweep, though that eventual victory is still some way off is suggested by the return of the ominous scherzo figure during the extended development.” MJ


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Sunday, December 17, 2017

December 17, 1865: Schubert's Unfinished Symphony premiered

Last updated August 29, 2018.

Symphony No. 8 in B minor (“Unfinished”), D. 759

Franz Schubert (composer)


Composed: 1822


First Performed: December 17, 1865


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: --


Genre: classical > symphony


Parts/Movements:

  1. Allegro moderato
  2. Andante con moto

Average Duration: 24:20

Review:

“Early in 1822, Schubert was at the zenith of his career and he began writing a monumental Symphony in B minor. By the end of that year, he had scored the first two movements and sketched a third. He contracted syphilis late in that year and for a time was completely incapacitated, which was when he stopped work on the symphony and set it aside. By spring, he had recovered some of his strength. He was accepted for honorary membership in the Styrian Music Society at Graz in Austria. As part of his acceptance, he sent the two completed movements of the B minor Symphony to its director, Anselm Hüttenbrenner, who promptly stuffed them into a drawer and forgot them. It languished there until 1860, when Hüttenbrenner’s younger brother Joseph came upon it and recognizing it as a lost treasure and began badgering Viennese conductor Johann Herbeck to perform the piece. The work was finally performed December 17, 1865.” MM

“The symphony itself is both large and understated. From the first, ominous opening bars, it is evident this is not the youthful Schubert who earlier crafted six lightweight symphonies. Confident and audacious, Schubert begins the 14 minute first movement by laying down a cornerstone in the basses, upon which is layered a gentle, wafting melody which gradually accumulates mass and power to a quick conclusion. This all turns out to be an introduction, and one of the composer's most brilliant melodies ensues. This, too, quickly becomes larger and more dramatic and an effective bridge leads back to the beginning. An intense, soaring center section, almost triumphant in its great chords, leads to a final reprise of the opening and the great movement ends solemnly.” MM

“The 11 minute Andante con moto movement begins with a marvelous melody, presented straightforwardly with no ornamentation, and this leads seamlessly to another marvelous woodwind melody. Great, broad shouldered strides carry the music to a new key where the themes are repeated. Tranquillity returns with the first themes and after a summation of what has passed, the movement – and the work – marches quietly to its end.” MM


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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Adult Album Alternative (AAA): Top 100 Songs

image from twimg.com

In 1996, Billboard magazine lanched the adult album alternative (AAA) chart. The radio format is a spinoff of the album-oriented radio format rooted in music from the ‘60s and ‘70s. AAA includes some of that genre’s most noted acts (Eric Clapton, John Mellencamp, Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen), but expands to include a variety of genres generally broader than most other radio formats, encompassing alternative rock, alt country, folk, jazz, and blues.

As of December 9, 2017, here are the top 100 AAA songs. They are listed based on most weeks at #1. Songs with the same number of weeks on top are ranked based on most points in Dave’s Music Database.

    16 weeks:

  1. U2 “Beautiful Day” (2000)

    15 weeks:

  2. Coldplay “Clocks” (2002)
  3. Kings of Leon “Waste a Moment” (2016)

    14 weeks:

  4. Adele “Rolling in the Deep” (2010)
  5. The Wallflowers “One Headlight” (1996)
  6. Matchbox 20 “Bent” (2000)
  7. Matchbox 20 “3 A.M.” (1996)

    13 weeks:

  8. Gotye with Kimbra “Somebody That I Used to Know” (2011)
  9. Santana with Rob Thomas “Smooth” (1999)
  10. Jack Johnson “Upside Down” (2006)
  11. Pearl Jam “Just Breathe” (2009)

    12 weeks:

  12. Train “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” (2001)
  13. Beck “Dreams” (2015)
  14. Dave Matthews Band “Funny the Way It Is” (2009)

    11 weeks:

  15. Coldplay “Viva La Vida” (2008)
  16. Mumford & Sons “I Will Wait” (2012)
  17. Portugal, the Man “Feel It Still” (2017)
  18. The Lumineers “Ophelia” (2016)
  19. Jack Johnson “You and Your Heart” (2010)
  20. KT Tunstall “Hold On” (2007)

    10 weeks:

  21. Sarah McLachlan “Building a Mystery” (1997)
  22. George Ezra “Budapest” (2013)
  23. Death Cab for Cutie “Soul Meets Body” (2005)
  24. The Black Keys “Fever” (2014)
  25. Jack Johnson “If I Had Eyes” (2007)
  26. Jack Johnson “Good People” (2005)
  27. David Gray “Fugitive” (2009)

    9 weeks:

  28. U2 “Vertigo” (2004)
  29. Coldplay “Speed of Sound” (2005)
  30. Train “Calling All Angels” (2003)
  31. Hootie & the Blowfish “Old Man & Me (When I Get to Heaven)” (1996)

    8 weeks:

  32. Green Day “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” (2004)
  33. Lorde “Royals” (2013)
  34. Snow Patrol “Chasing Cars” (2006)
  35. The Lumineers “Ho Hey” (2012)
  36. Coldplay “Paradise” (2011)
  37. Milky Chance “Stolen Dance” (2013)
  38. R.E.M. “The Great Beyond” (1999)
  39. Counting Crows “Hanginaround” (1999)
  40. The Lumineers “Stubborn Love” (2012)
  41. Norah Jones “Sunrise” (2004)
  42. Tracy Chapman “Telling Stories (There Is Friction in the Space Between) (2000)
  43. The Head and the Heart “All We Ever Knew” (2016)
  44. Michael Franti & Spearhead “The Sound of Sunshine” (2010)
  45. Death Cab for Cutie “You Are a Tourist” (2011)
  46. David Gray “You’re the World to Me” (2007)
  47. Serena Ryder “Stompa” (2013)

    7 weeks:

  48. New Radicals “You Get What You Give” (1998)
  49. The Fray “You Found Me” (2008)
  50. The Black Keys “Lonely Boy” (2011)
  51. Sheryl Crow “Soak Up the Sun” (2002)
  52. Eric Clapton “My Father’s Eyes” (1998)
  53. U2 “Staring at the Sun” (1997)
  54. Coldplay “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” (2011)
  55. Kings of Leon “Radioactive” (2010)
  56. Dave Matthews Band “Where Are You Going?” (2002)
  57. U2 “Window in the Skies” (2006)
  58. Dave Matthews Band “Stay (Wasting Time)” (1998)
  59. Natalie Merchant “Kind and Generous” (1998)
  60. Dave Matthews Band “Everyday” (2001)
  61. U2 “You’re the Best Thing About Me” (2017)
  62. Snow Patrol “Crack the Shutters” (2008)
  63. John Butler Trio “Better Than” (2007)
  64. Spoon “Hot Thoughts’ (2017)

    6 weeks:

  65. Gnarls Barkley “Crazy” (2006)
  66. Sam Smith “Stay with Me” (2014)
  67. Phillip Phillips “Home” (2012)
  68. John Mayer “Waiting on the World to Change” (2006)
  69. Goo Goo Dolls “Slide” (1998)
  70. The Killers “Read My Mind” (2006)
  71. John Mellencamp “Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)” (1996)
  72. Sheryl Crow “A Change Would Do You Good” (1996)
  73. U2 “Electrical Storm” (2002)
  74. Jack Johnson “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” (2005)
  75. Blues Traveler “Most Precarious” (1997)
  76. Arcade Fire “Everything Now” (2017)
  77. Norah Jones “Chasing Pirates” (2009)
  78. Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs “Beg, Steal or Borrow” (2010)
  79. Daid Gray “The One I Love” (2005)
  80. Pete Yorn “Life on a Chain” (2001)

    5 weeks:

  81. U2 “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own” (2004)
  82. Primitive Radio Gods “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand” (1996)
  83. The Verve Pipe “The Freshmen” (1996)
  84. Gin Blossoms “Follow You Down” (1996)
  85. Coldplay “Adventure of a Lifetime” (2015)
  86. Sheryl Crow “My Favorite Mistake” (1998)
  87. Mumford & Sons “Believe” (2015)
  88. Sarah McLachlan “Fallen” (2003)
  89. Counting Crows “Accidentally in Love” (2004)
  90. Death Cab for Cutie “I Will Possess Your Heart” (2008)
  91. Shery Crow “Anything But Down” (1998)
  92. Collective Soul “Run” (1999)
  93. John Mayer “Bigger Than My Body” (2003)
  94. John Mellencamp with India.Arie “Peaceful World” (2001)
  95. Dave Matthews Band “I Did It” (2001)
  96. R.E.M. “Supernatural Superserious” (2008)
  97. Rag ‘n’ Bone Man “Human” (2016)
  98. John Mayer “Who Says” (2009)
  99. The Avett Brothers “Ain’t No Man” (2016)
  100. Paolo Nutini “New Shoes” (2006)

Adult Album Alternative (AAA) Acts: Top 100

image from twimg.com

In 1996, Billboard magazine lanched the adult album alternative (AAA) chart. The radio format is a spinoff of the album-oriented radio format rooted in music from the ‘60s and ‘70s. AAA includes some of that genre’s most noted acts (Eric Clapton, John Mellencamp, Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen), but expands to include a variety of genres generally broader than most other radio formats, encompassing alternative rock, alt country, folk, jazz, and blues.

As of December 9, 2017, here are the top 100 AAA acts.

1. U2
2. Dave Matthews (solo and with band)
3. Coldplay
4. Jack Johnson
5. Sheryl Crow
6. John Mayer
7. R.E.M.
8. Counting Crows
9. The Wallflowers
10. Train

11. Tom Petty (solo & with Heartbreakers & Mudcrutch)
12. David Gray
13. Ryan Adams
14. Eric Clapton
15. Beck
16. Death Cab for Cutie
17. Snow Patrol
18. Mumford & Sons
19. Adele
20. Red Hot Chili Peppers

21. Bruce Springsteen
22. Sting
23. Matchbox 20
24. Norah Jones
25. Ben Harper
26. Kings of Leon
27. John Mellencamp
28. Sarah McLachlan
29. Ray LaMontagne
30. Green Day

31. Chris Isaak
32. Goo Goo Dolls
33. Collective Soul
34. Keane
35. Wilco
36. Imagine Dragons
37. Barenaked Ladies
38. The Head and the Heart
39. Lenny Kravitz
40. The Black Keys

41. Tracy Chapman
42. The Fray
43. Melissa Etheridge
44. The Avett Brothers
45. Pearl Jam
46. Florence + the Machine
47. Guster
48. Jason Mraz
49. Cage the Elephant
50. Michael Franti

51. Bonnie Raitt
52. The Rolling Stones
53. Matt Nathanson
54. Pete Yorn
55. Alanis Morissette
56. Indigo Girls
57. The Lumineers
58. Blues Traveler
59. KT Tunstall
60. The Decemberists

61. Mark Knopfler
62. Tori Amos
63. Shawn Colvin
64. Spoon
65. Jonny Lang
66. Amos Lee
67. Phish
68. The Killers
69. Shawn Mullins
70. Brandi Carlile

71. Van Morrison
72. Robert Plant
73. Dawes
74. Arcade Fire
Foo Fighters
76. Neil Young
77. Of Monsters and Men
78. Grace Potter
79. John Hiatt
80. Alabama Shakes

81. Lorde
82. Pretenders
83. Hozier
84. Mat Kearney
85. Natalie Merchant
86. Phillip Phillips
87. Santana
88. Paul Simon
89. Fitz & the Tantrums
90. Jewel

91. Michael Kiwanuka
92. Ingrid Michaelson
93. Brett Dennen
94. Paolo Nutini
95. Jackson Browne
96. John Bulter Trio
97. Old 97’s
98. Feist
99. Vance Joy
100. One Republic


Friday, December 8, 2017

December 8, 1813: Beethoven's 7th symphony premiered

Last updated August 28, 2018.

Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92

Ludwig van Beethoven (composer)


Composed: 1809-1812


First Performed: December 8, 1813


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: --


Genre: classical > symphony


Parts/Movements:

  1. Poco sostenuto – Vivace
  2. Allegretto
  3. Presto
  4. Allegro con brio

Average Duration: 37:40

Review:

“Ludwig van Beethoven completed this work in 1812, but withheld the first performance until December 8, 1813, in Vienna. It is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, and trumpets, plus timpani and string choir.” RD

“1812 was an eventful year for the very famous, seriously deafened Beethoven. July was especially noteworthy. At Teplitz he finally met Goethe (1749-1832), but was disappointed to find (he felt) an aging courtier who was no longer a firebrand or kindred democrat; worse yet, a musical dilettante. A week before that only meeting of German giants, Beethoven had written the letter to his mysterious ‘immortal beloved’ that was discovered posthumously in a secret drawer. Then, toward the end of the year, he meddled unbidden in the affairs of his youngest brother, Johann, who was cohabiting contentedly with a housekeeper. Somehow, he found time to compose the last of his ten sonatas for violin and piano and to complete a new pair of symphonies – the Seventh and Eighth – both begun in 1809. He introduced the Seventh at a charity concert for wounded soldiers, and repeated it four nights later by popular demand.” RD

“Richard Wagner called Symphony No. 7 ‘the apotheosis of the dance,’ meaning of course to praise its Dionysian spirit. But this oxymoron stuck like feathers to hot tar, encouraging irrelevant and awkward choreography (by Isadore Duncan and Léonide Massine among others) and licensing the music appreciation racket to misinterpret Beethoven’s intent as well as his content. Wholly abstract and utterly symphonic, the Seventh was his definitive break with stylistic conventions practiced by Mozart, Haydn, and a legion of lesser mortals who copied them. He stretched harmonic rules, and gave breadth to symphonic forms that Haydn and Mozart anticipated. If, in his orchestral music, Beethoven was the last Austro-German Classicist, he did point those who followed him to the path of Romanticism.” RD

“While the poco sostenuto introduction begins by observing time-honored rules of harmony, within 62 measures it modulates from A major to the alien keys of C and F major, then back again! The transition from solemn 4/4 meter to 6/8 for the balance of an evergreen vivace movement (in sonata form) further exemplifies Beethoven’s conceptual stretch.” RD

“Coming from the 20-minute funeral march of his earlier Eroica Symphony, Beethoven created an allegretto ‘slow’ movement. He established a funerary mood (without its being specifically elegiac) through the repetition of a 2/4 rhythmic motif in A minor, the most somber key of the tempered scale. A minor serves more than an expressive function, moreover; it readies us for the reappearance of F major in a tumultuous five-part Scherzo marked Presto. Two trios go slower (assai meno presto), in D major – a long distance harmonically in 1812 from the work’s A major tonic. The beginning of a third trio turns into a short coda capped by five fortissimo chords.” RD

“A major finally returns in the final movement. Here more than anywhere else in his orchestral music, Beethoven became a race-car driver. As in the ‘slow’ movement, the rhythm is 2/4, but sonata-form replaces ABA. And there’s a grand coda longer than the exposition, the development, or the reprise, which, furthermore, begins in B minor! But modulations bring it back to A major in time for a heart-pounding final lap with the accelerator pressed to the floor.” RD


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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December 5, 1791: Mozart died, leaving his unfinished Requiem surrounded by myth

Last updated August 27, 2018.

Requiem Mass in D minor

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (composer)


Composed: 1791


First Performed: ?


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: “The sublimest achievement that the modern period has contributed to the church.” – E.T.A. Hoffmann WK


Genre: classical > choral music


Parts/Movements:

  1. Requiem aeternam
  2. Kyrie
  3. Dies irae
  4. Tuba mirum
  5. Rex tremendae
  6. Recordare
  7. Confutatis
  8. Lacrimosa
  9. Domine Deus
  10. Hostias
  11. Sanctus
  12. Benedictus
  13. Aguns Dei
  14. Lux aeterna

Average Duration: 51:33

Review:

Mozart’s “deathbed composition…ascended to truly iconic status. It did so despite fundamental mysteries of its composition and even its authenticity.” TD His widow, Constanze, “was responsible for a number of stories…including the claims that Mozart received the commission from a mysterious messenger who did not reveal the commissioner’s identity, and that Mozart came to believe that he was writing the requiem for his own funeral.” WK

“A tangled skein of myths and fairy tales imagine the deathbed genius collapsing upon his manuscript (myths powerfully reinforced by the 1984 film Amadeus), but many facts about the piece are clear.” TD “The Countess von Walsegg passed away in February 1791. The Count commissioned a requiem mass from Mozart via a clerk (the ‘Grey Messenger’ of Requiem-mythology). Mozart accepted the job for his unknown patron, having desired to compose some ‘higher form of church music.’” TD

In October and November of 1791, Mozart worked on the piece, TD “but it was unfinished at his death on 5 December the same year.” WK Constanze “arranged for his friends and pupils to complete the other movements.” TD “A completed version dated 1792 by Franz Xaver Süssmayr was delivered to Count Franz von Walsegg.” WK “It cannot be shown to what extent Süssmayr may have depended on now lost ‘scraps of paper’ for the remainder; he later claimed the Sanctus and Agnus Dei as his own.” WK

“Walsegg probably intended to pass the Requiem off as his own composition, as he is known to have done with other works. This plan was frustrated by a public benefit performance for…Constanze.” WK

“Mozart’s Requiem contains five sections, each capped by a fugue: ‘Requiem/Kyrie,’ ‘Sequence (Dies Irae),’ ‘Offertory,’ ‘Sanctus,’ and ‘Agnus Dei.’ Throughout, choral writing drives Mozart’s music; even the four soloists rarely sing alone. The darkly colored orchestra supports the choir with often vivid motives. This pictorial aspect is most evident in the Sequence: Tuba mirum (solo trombone), Rex tremendae (regal dotted-rhythms), Confutatis (fiery accompaniment), and Lachrymosa (sighing strings). Not only do individual movements display an extraordinary level of motivic unity, Mozart carefully creates motivic relationships across the entire Requiem. The very first melody sung by the basses (Requiem aeternam), for instance, is repeated at the very end and also echoes throughout the work; the opening melody of ‘Dies irae’ translates into major mode to open the Sanctus. Mozart is never afraid, however, of acknowledging his debt to earlier traditions of church music. His fugues deliberately reference Bach, and in the first movement alone he quotes from Michael Haydn’s Requiem, Handel’s funeral anthem for Queen Caroline, Messiah, and the Gregorian chant known as the ‘Pilgrim’s Tone.’” TD


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December 5, 1830: Berlioz premieres his Symphony Fantastique

Last updated August 29, 2018.

Symphonie fantastique for orchestra (“Episode de la vie d’un Artiste…en cinq parties”), H.48 (Op. 14)

Hector Berlioz (composer)


Composed: 1830


First Performed: December 5, 1830


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Genre: classical > symphony


Parts/Movements:

  1. Visions and passions
  2. Un bal: Valse, Allegro non troppo
  3. Scene au champ, Adagio
  4. Marche au supplice, Allegro non troppo
  5. Songe d’une nuit du Sabbat

Average Duration: 51:40

Review:

The Symphony Fantastique is “an important piece of the early Romantic period.” WK Leonard Bernstein described it “as the first musical expedition into psychedelia because of its hallucinatory and dream-like nature.” WK History actually suggests Berlioz composed at least part of it under the influence of opium. WK

The symphony was inspired by Berlioz’s infatuation with Harriet Smithson, a pretty British ingénue who came to Paris to play Shakespeare. RD A young musician takes drugs in an attempt at suicide, but ends up hallucinating about his “Beloved” (Smithson) appearing “as a recurring melody with several personalities.” RD

“Despite the lurid scenario, Berlioz’s five-movement structure owes more to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony than anyone seems to have noticed at the time, or, for that matter, since. Where Beethoven whipped up a storm, Berlioz created a mob scene that concludes with the protagonist’s death: his decapitated head bounces into a waiting basket pizzicato. In the finale, Berlioz went far beyond Beethoven’s merrymaking peasants; he created a witches’ sabbath, without precedent in music before 1830. Along with liberating orchestral color, he overthrew the tyranny of bar-lines, downbeat accents, and academic dogma.” RD

Dreams, Passions begins with the hero’s despair…The Beloved’s signature melody is the main theme of a sonata structure with exposition repeat.” RDA Ball (Allegro non troppo, A major) is the waltz without a trio, although a contrasting section in F major has unison flute and oboe playing the Beloved’s theme.” RDScene in the Fields is an Adagio that begins and concludes with an antiphonal shepherds’ duet on oboe and English horn.” RD

“The G minor March to the Scaffold recreates a scene from the Revolution…The protagonist dreams he’s been condemned to die for killing his Beloved, who appears briefly as a clarinet, and he is guillotined as the crowd shouts approval.” RDDream of the Witches’ Sabbath features a four-part structure after an eerie introduction in E flat. The Beloved’s melody is the main theme of Part I, now, however, distorted and vulgarized by clarinets.” RD

It was first performed at December 5, 1830 at the Paris Conservatoire WK with Berlioz conducting. “He revised it in 1832 and added two cornets to the instrumentation in 1845.” RD


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